The Top 10: TV shows that lasted longer than the events portrayed

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Thanks to Tom Doran, Michael Glasper and HeyAdora, who started off with the middle section, nos 4, 5, 6 and 7.  

1. Wagon Train. Series about the adventures of travellers from Missouri to California in the period after the Civil War, a journey that would have taken six months (setting off in spring in time to avoid winter in the Rocky Mountains). The NBC and later ABC show ran to 284 episodes over eight years, 1957-65. Thanks to Graham Fildes.

2. Doctor Who. Has lasted for more than all of time itself, said Tom Bloomfield. There is always one.  

3. Star Trek. The original TV series announced a “five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations”. That series lasted three years, 1966-69, but the franchise is still boldly going now. The films ran for 12 years between 1979 and 1991, although for the films of The Next Generation series, 1994-2002, they changed the words to “its ongoing mission”. Thanks to Mick O’Hare.  

4. Dad’s Army. The BBC TV series ran for nine years, 1968-77, three years longer than the Second World War.   

5. M*A*S*H. Set in the Korean war, 1950-53. The series ran for 11 years, from 1972-83.  

6. Hi-de-Hi! Set in a holiday camp in 1959-60; the series ran for eight years, 1980-88.  

7. ’Allo ’Allo! Set during the Nazi occupation of France; BBC series ran for 10 years, 1982-92. Also nominated by Faye Harland and Andrew Ruddle. David Mills remembers Alexei Sayle joking that the series had gone on longer than the Second World War and had caused almost as many casualties.  

8. Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Most of the 70 episodes were set in 1936, but the ITV series ran from 1989 to 2013. Thanks to Graham Kirby.  

9. The Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang lasted 10⁻¹² seconds, pointed out Todd Coxeter. The CBS TV series lasted 12 years, 2007-19. 

10. Generation Kill. The story takes place over the four weeks of the invasion of Iraq. The series ran for six weeks, 13 July to 24 August 2008. Thanks to Faye Harland. 

Will Cooling pointed out that Lyndon B Johnson held elected office for 31 years, 1938 to 1969, but Robert Caro has been writing about it for 38 years and counting. Nothing wrong with that: Tony Blair was prime minister for 10 years, but Jon Davis and I have been teaching the “Blair Years” course, at Queen Mary and now King’s College, London, for 12 years. 

Honourable mentions for Andrew Denny, who said, “In the early 1970s three films of On The Buses appeared at about the same time”; and for Emmabella Murray who pointed out The NeverEnding Story is 94 minutes long. If you include films, said Darren Sugg, both Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Pearl Harbor (2001) are longer than the actual attack, which lasted 90 minutes. 

Next week: Technologies that are definitely just about to solve big problems but probably won’t ever work – after Boris Johnson enthused about hydrogen power.

Coming soon: Ghosts, starting with Timothy Claypole, Jacob Marley and Dr Malcolm Crowe.

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to [email protected]